Colt Martially Marked New Model M-1861 Navy - Scarce
- Product Code: FHG-1655-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a VERY GOOD+ condition example of the scarce martially marked Colt New Model (M-1861) Navy percussion revolver. The M-1861 Navy was the pinnacle of Colt’s percussion revolver production, and blended some of the best features of both the popular Old Model Navy (aka M-1851) and New Model Army (aka M-1860) revolvers into one pistol. The gun was a .36 caliber (as implied by the name “Navy”), six shot revolver with a 7 ““ round barrel. The loading lever was of the M-1860 Army “creeping style” and for all practical purposes the front half of the revolver was a scaled down version of M-1860 Army in .36 caliber. The rear portion of the revolver was pure “Navy” with the classic M-1851 grip frame and grip angle, which would live for generations as the pattern for the grip design of the classic Colt M-1873 Single Action Army. The M-1861 Navy was more streamlined than the earlier M-1851 variant and the new loading lever was a significant improvement over the older toggle action design. While the revolvers were not purchased in huge numbers by the US government during the American Civil War, they did serve in reasonably large numbers, proportional to their production. Only 38,843 of the pistols were produced during its production run from 1861 to 1873, with less than 28,000 being manufactured before the end of 1865. Most sources place US government purchases at about 2,000, but based upon recorded serial number data, more were purchased on the open market, as well as by the various states and by individual soldiers. According to theSpringfield Research Service serial number record books, a number of M-1861 Navy revolvers were reported in the hands of troopers from Companies F & L, 13th Illinois Cavalry during 1864. These guns are scattered in the serial number ranges of 2496 “ 4324, 7636 “ 12482 and 16001 “ 16236. M-1861 Navy revolvers also show up in the records of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry (Companies C &D, scattered from 4255 “ 7709), the 9th Illinois Cavalry (Company D) and the 10th Illinois Cavalry (Company B). Colt M-1861 Navy revolvers are also listed among the small arms issued to Company L of the 2nd KY Cavalry (US), and Company E of the 11th Ohio Cavalry. The members of Company M, 1st Arkansas Cavalry privately purchased a handful of the pistols as well. This wide range of serial numbers and issue of the pistols clearly indicates that many more of the revolvers were purchased by the states and saw use during the war than the 2,000 Ordnance Department purchased and inspected revolvers. The fact that a minimum of 3 Illinois Volunteer cavalry regiments were at least partially armed with the revolvers suggests that Illinois may have made a significant purchase of the revolvers directly from Colt or other sources. At least one delivery of 50 “New Model” Navy revolvers to the state of Illinois is contained within surviving Colt documents, as well as a delivery of 461 to the state of Connecticut and 120 to the state of Rhode Island. Only those revolvers purchased directly from Colt by the Ordnance Department delivered to the Ordnance Department inspectors were marked in any way. This makes martially marked M-1861 “New Model” Navy revolvers quite scarce today. During 1862 exactly 2,000 of the pistols were delivered directly from Colt to the Ordnance Department, with an additional 56 being procured in 1863. The first of 1862 deliveries were made on February 17 and the last on April 2. These were the only revolvers of this pattern to receive military inspection marks. Other documented US military purchases of the “New Model” Navy include 307 that were procured from Joseph C. Grubb & Company of Philadelphia, PA, and 2,400 acquired from B. Kittredge & Company of Louisville, KY. None of these guns were inspected and marked. The US Navy also purchase 3,370 “New Model” Navy revolvers during the war, but according to most researchers the majority of the guns underwent no specific inspection and were left unmarked. Unlike the “Old Model” Navy revolvers (M-1851), the military inspected “New Model” Navy pistols were not marked U.S. on the frame under the COLTS / PATENT, but were simply marked with the usual single letter sub-inspection stamps on most of the individual components, and often with an inspectors’ cartouche on the left side of the one-piece walnut grip.
This Martially Marked Colt New Model 1861 Navy Revolver is in about VERY GOOD+ condition. It is serial number 6073, placing its production in the early part of 1862. This is further confirmed by the two accompanying Colt Factory Letters, which reveal that this “New Model” Navy was part of a shipment of 500 delivered to Major R.H.K. Whitely, commander of the New York Arsenal on Governor’s Island, on March 6, 1862. The letters also confirm the original shipping configuration for this Colt M-1861 Navy revolver. All of the serial numbers on the gun match, including the wedge and the grips, which are pencil numbered inside the backstrap cavity. The pistol retains crisp and legible markings throughout. The lower left front of the frame reads COLT’s / PATENT, and the side of the cylinder is markedCOLT’s PATENT 073. The front edge of the cylinder is also marked very crisply: ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843 in reference to the naval battle scene roll engraved on the cylinder. The top of the 7 ““ round barrel is marked with the standard one-line New York address: “ ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW “ YORK U. S. AMERICA “. The gun is marked throughout with a series of government sub-inspector marks, primarily the letter C, but with the letters D, S and L also present. The “C” marks appear on both sides of the barrel, just forward of the forcing cone, and one the rear edge of the cylinder, between two of the cone (nipple) recesses. The letter “D” appears on the bottom of the barrel, just in front of the loading lever pivot point, and is only visible with the lever lowered. The letter “L” appears on the top of the brass back strap and on the bottom of the one-piece walnut grip. A single “S’ appears on the backstrap, immediately behind the triggerguard. A crisp and legible script BP cartouche is present on the left side of the grip. This is either the mark of Armory Sub-Inspector Pomeroy Booth or USN Gunner Peter Barrett. It seems unlikely that Barrett would have inspected a US Army procured revolver, but it is possible that he was temporarily detached from the Navy to help with small arm inspection duties at Governor’s Island at the time. It is also possible that this revolver somehow passed from the Army to the Navy during its service. The gun remains crisp throughout with sharp lines and edges and strong markings. The gun was probably lightly cleaned a very long time ago, but has managed to tone down and has developed an attractive patina. The gun has a thin plum-brown patina with a dove gray undertone over most of the metal surfaces, with a slightly darker, smoky gray frame. The barrel and cylinder both retain some tiny flecks of original blued finish, in the protected nooks and crannies, with the face of the cylinder and the chamber mouths retaining the most blue, although it is thinned and dulled. The frame retains some traces of faded case colored mottling, with a mixture of smoky gray and dull pewter colors, interspersed with some very faint traces of dull blues, purples and browns. The hammer retains slightly more traces of faded case coloring, which are more visible due to its primarily pewter patina. The case hardened loading lever retains minor traces of color and has the same dark, smoky patina that is present on most of the frame. The cylinder retains about 85%+ of the Ormsby roll engraved Republic of Texas vs. the Mexican Navy battle scene, and is quite crisp and clear. The cylinder retains all of its original cones (nipples) and they are in very crisp condition. The cylinder also retains all of the safety pins on its rear as well. A couple of the pins show light to moderate wear and some battering, but the rest remain very crisp and in fine condition. The barrel of the revolver is mostly smooth, with some scattered areas of very light pinpricking and some lightly oxidized peppering, mostly near the muzzle near the muzzle. Some similar small patches of pinpricking are present on the cylinder as well, mostly towards the rear around the cone recesses. The bore of the pistol rates about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE. It is mostly bright, with sharp rifling, and some lightly scattered pitting along its entire length. The pistol is in EXCELLENT condition mechanically, and functions as it should. The revolver times, indexes and locks up correctly and the action retains a very crisp feel to it. The brass frame appears to have been lightly cleaned at some point in the past, and has toned down to a very attractive golden color. The grip frame has no traces of silver-plated finish, and was probably never plated. Colt often delivered military arms with a "military finish", which consisted of a duller, lower polish blue rather than the civilian "high luster" blue, oiled walnut grips rather than varnished, and plain brass back and gripstraps rather than silver plated ones. This is further suggested by the Colt factory letter, which describes the finish of the revolver as "Blue/Brass", suggesting the brass was not plated. The one-piece walnut grip is in about FINE condition. The grip is solid free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The edges remain crisp, with only the tiniest, and almost imperceptible dings found on the leading edges at the bottom front frame juncture. The left grip has a very crisp and clear script PB cartouche, and the grip is numbered in pencil, under the backstrap 6073, matching the serial number of the pistol. As would be expected, the grip does show some light bumps, dings, and handling marks, but nothing excessive or abusive. All of the grip wear is actually quite light for a 150 year old military issued holster pistol!
Overall this is a really crisp, well marked and mechanically excellent example of one of the hardest martially marked Colt revolvers to find on the market. With less than 39,000 produced, and less than 28,000 of them produced before the end of 1865, these guns can be hard to find among the approximately 200,000 Colt M-1860 Army revolvers and approximately 215,000 Colt M-1851 Navy revolvers produced. M-1861 Navy production only equaled about 19% of Colt 1860 Army production and 17% of Colt 1851 Navy production. As such, they are about 5 times rarer than the more common Colts, and as such should be 5 times as valuable! The number of martially marked M-1861 Navy revolvers is truly miniscule when compared to the many thousands of M-1860 Army revolvers that were purchased and inspected during the Civil War, and finding one of these martially marked 1861 Navy revolvers in such a crisp state of preservation is truly rare. This is a great example that will be a wonderful addition to your collection of Civil War era martial revolvers, and is a gun you will really enjoy displaying with your collection. Two Colt factory archives research letters accompany this gun. The first letter was obtained in November of 1975, and the gun was re-lettered in March of 1992. They add significantly to the value and future appreciation of the revolver. A copy of the more recent letter is located at the bottom of the photos below.SOLD